Crafton policeman arrested in fatality
Pittsburgh police arrested a 15-year veteran of the Crafton Police Department on Friday morning on charges he struck and killed a 24-year-old man with his sports utility vehicle, then fled from the scene, two years ago in the South Side.
Patrolman Donnie L. Breeden, 38, of Green Tree turned himself in at police headquarters in the North Side yesterday morning. He was arraigned at the Allegheny County Jail on charges of involuntary manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.
David Hall of Moon died when he was struck first by Breeden’s vehicle, and then by two others, at about 11:40 p.m. July 20, 2007, in the westbound lane of Carson Street near the Duquesne Incline, police said.
Hall’s father said the family is relieved police made an arrest. But, he said, it does not ease the sense of loss.
“I don’t think there’s ever real closure when you lose a son or daughter,” Robert Hall said. “It’s always with you.”
Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said investigators received an anonymous tip three days ago leading them to Breeden.
She said she was disgusted that the suspect is a sworn officer.
“We were able to obtain a warrant for — I don’t even want to say officer — for Breeden,” Bryant said at a news conference.
“This is like a slap in the face for every police officer who honors the badge,” she said. ” All he had to do was stop, if he had been drinking or if he hadn’t been drinking, you stop, you render aid and you wait for officers to arrive. He chose to keep going and keep it a secret all this time.”
“I guess he figured he’d take his chances,” Bryant said.
When Breeden turned himself in, he asked police if he would be able to work his regularly scheduled shift yesterday in Crafton, Bryant said.
Breeden’s lawyer, Bill Difenderfer, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
The Crafton Police Department referred all questions to Pittsburgh police and borough officials. Crafton Mayor Susan O’Connell said Breeden has been with the department for 15 years and remains on the force for now.
Breeden and some friends were partying the night of the hit-and-run, police said, driving from “an establishment” in Green Tree to a bar or club in the South Side. Breeden was alone in his SUV, a 2003 Chevy Trailblazer; a group of friends followed him in another vehicle, Bryant said.
Police said the vehicle following Breeden stopped and returned to the scene and the driver checked on Hall’s condition. Breeden never stopped, police said.
Two other cars hit Hall after the SUV struck him, police said. Those drivers stopped and talked to police.
Hall had stepped into the traffic lanes to ask a Port Authority bus driver in a stopped bus when the bus to Moon would come.
Police have examined Breeden’s SUV and found areas that have been repaired, Bryant said.
More people could be charged, Bryant said, including Breeden’s “acquaintances” who saw him hit Hall but failed to report it.
When asked if any of the acquaintances were Crafton police officers, Bryant said: “We don’t want to say at this time.”
Police would not reveal details of the anonymous tip or discuss the ongoing investigation. Breeden “was not on our radar” before the tip came in, Bryant said.
Jacqueline and Robert Hall adopted David, who was developmentally delayed, when he was 4. As a young man, Hall used to take the bus from his Moon home to Achieva Pittsburgh, a nonprofit agency that works with people with disabilities.
“He was sorely missed. My guys still talk about him, daily,” said Steve Eperthener, Hall’s immediate supervisor at Achieva. “He always tried to help people and always tried to fix things. … I can only imagine what his parents are going through. (Breeden) put Dave’s family through hell. It’s a total disgrace.”
Robert Hall said he hopes the arrest will have a cleansing effect on Breeden.
“I imagine that man has had quite a burden he’s been carrying for a while,” he said. “If he’s a good man, that has got to have been really painful. Maybe it’s a relief for him now. At least, I hope that’s what’s happening.”